Greenest Vancouver Vancouver, BC’s Greenest City Action Team—which includes Sightline board member Gordon Price convened by Mayor Gregor Robertson last week revealed its “Urgent Quick Start Recommendations.” 

At first I thought this was going to be a laundry list of boring policies with a lot of foot notes.  Instead, the recommendations, developed ahead of the 2010 Olympic Games, are kind of a catalog of interesting ideas to make cities more sustainable. Vancouver’s goal: to become the Greenest City on Earth by 2020.

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  • I won’t criticize the document for not addressing BC’s intense election battle going on right now and the possibility that BC’s best-in-the-world cap and trade program may be central in determining winners and losers.

    Instead I will call out a few of the ideas I hope Vancouver will follow up on between now and 2020:

    An adaptive street LED street light program. Street lighting is really important for compact communities providing a much needed sense of security and safety for residents. But all those lights burn up a lot of energy.  I had the good fortune to visit the Lumec lighting lab in Quebec several years ago.  They have a lighting fixture that can save up to 50 percent on energy use. Energy saving lighting is a win-win.

    Priority permitting process for green buildings . This is an interesting idea that could be yet another incentive for encouraging retrofits and green development.

    Make streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists. There is a whole list of ideas here from reducing speed limits for cars to establishing exclusive bike corridors in the city’s core. When I went to school at the University of California Santa Barbara there were dedicated corridors—bike freeways. You could stand near by and hear the hum of the bike wheels during rush hour. Canada is already a leader in making biking a priority. I hope Vancouver will test out this idea.

    Create a public bike sharing program. Bike sharing has worked in Europe and might even be catching on in the United States.Vancouver is a city that could make this work and perhaps learn enough to help start programs in Seattle and persuade Portland to restart the program they put on hold last year.

    Create an edible landscaping policy. I love this idea.  I don’t know how it solves climate change but it certainly would be nice to have breakfast on the way to work just by stopping by a few hedges and trees.  The City of Issaquah, WA, has already implemented this on Gilman Boulevard and offers tours.

    The Quick Start Recommendations are truly an ambitious set of ideas. The next step is to make some of them happen in Vancouver and then replicate the best ones throughout Cascadia.

    Editor’s note: Through May 20, we’re offering a chance at one of three gift certificates for Vancouver restaurants Chambar and Wild Rice to BC residents who sign up for Sightline’s daily or weekly emails. If you’re from BC, sign up and take a minute to let your coworkers and friends know about us.